Apostle John’s Three Letters . . . 2 John: 5–7
The Commandment to Love
Today we'll look closely at "love" and "obedience." Apostle John, an elder who was well advanced in age, addressed his second epistle literally to an elect lady and her children, figuratively to a local congregation. Over all, it was to encourage discernment in hospitality for its readers. It begins with a greeting that was followed by instructions to be obedient to God’s command to walk in truth (vv. 2–4). The text of today's passage suggests a two-fold follow-up purpose: (1) to encourage brotherly love (v. 5) and (2) to obey Father God's commandment to walk in love (v. 6); a certain sign of such love is how fully one obeys God (v. 6). John then switches gears, warning against welcoming false teachers — albeit deceivers and antichrists — into the lady's home or the house church (v. 7). Christians should remain alert and carefully focused on the truth about Jesus.
We’re to Love One Another (2 John, v. 5)
As we've seen in First John (3:1, 14; 4:7), the apostle continues to speak about love. Within the house church to which he wrote this second letter there was division; some had chosen to leave the church and its truth, taking a different approach that denied the person and promise of Jesus who'd provided the church fellowship one remedy, a simple one: to love one another. This wasn't a new remedy to John's readers; he repeated this theme throughout First John and his gospel. Neither was it a new commandment; it was the Lord's own words, spoken from the beginning of his earthly ministry. John believed that this command to love one another was essential to all believers.
And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another (Second John, v. 5).
Readers — then and now — of this passage's opening verse are commanded by John (and certainly God) to "love one another." When this epistle was written, believers of Jesus knew this command of his very well, which John iterates in his gospel: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34–35). And earlier in John's first epistle, he stressed the importance of loving God while also loving brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:20–21). Today, we believers of Jesus must obey his commands! We prove that we love him when we do as he tells us to do; but if we don't obey his word, we prove the opposite.
John couldn't have been clearer about Jesus' "love command," as shown in these commanding verses of his. . .
We're commanded to love one another because God sees that act as being essential to the lives of born-again believers. How might we love one another? We demonstrate our love for brothers and sisters in Christ through our genuine care for them and our follow-up acts of mercy. For our acts to be effective, we must speak the truth about Jesus through our expressions of love and compassion, and our helpful acts of counseling them if they appear to be believing or acting inappropriately. We also verify the veracity of our love for God by obeying his commands. John will elaborate on one of those commands in v. 7 wherein he instructs us to not be deceived by false prophets and deceptive heretics.
Only love can repair and protect situations in which personal relationships break; scolding and condemnation are liable to bring about only bitterness and antagonism; a war of words and squabbling are bound to widen the division; only genuine love can mend personal separation and bring new life into a lost relationship.
But it's certainly possible that those who, in John's eyes, have gone astray might say, We do indeed love God! In response, we ought to remember what John writes about in another of Jesus' statements: "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Jesus' commandment therein amounted to "loving one another"; anyone who fails to obey his commandment doesn't truly love God, despite one's claim to do so. To verify our love for God, we must love our brothers and sisters in Christ. In the next verse, John defines what love is and advises us of our requirement to obey and actively follow his commands; we've heard them from the beginning so we must continually obey them.
Father God’s Command: Walk in Love! (2 John, v. 6)
The author next explains what love consists of: obedience to God’s commands. Just as he'd expressed in 1 John 5:3, genuine Christians express their love for God by obeying his commands, especially by loving one another.
It's worth remembering what was highlighted on our previous summary page: The body of this second letter begins by John commending and encouraging the church body for their love for one another, which was to completely agree with the truth of Jesus and his gospel (vv. 4–6). He skillfully combined truth and love to demonstrate essential fundamentals that believers must have against heresy. In those three verses, the elder presents this positive outlook: There can be no divine love, apart from truth. He then emphasizes what love is.
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love (Second John, v. 6).
"And this is love" The primary evidence or proof of a believer's true love — first to God, then to his people — can be documented by how one walks, adheres to, and obeys God's commandments. We must be obedient to his will in all things. Having such love for God and his children is the great command, which "you have heard from the beginning." This is his great and special command, one by which his disciples were to be characterized and recognized by the world.
Look back at the answer Jesus gave the teacher of the Law who'd asked him: "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" Jesus told him the two greatest commandments, combined as one: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28–31). Jesus' command to love one's neighbor as oneself was always in the Torah (the Law), as shown in Leviticus 19:18. However, Jesus put the two Old Testament commands together in a remarkably new way.
To successfully prevent ourselves from being attracted to and possibly being mislead by deniers of the truth about Jesus, John has given us this five-part formula to follow: (1) We start by testing the spirits (1 John 4:1, as highlighted in Week 12's summary); (2) we then inspect and detect false teachers and prophets while comparing their erroneous pronouncements of the truth about Jesus (see Matthew 7:17 and 1 Peter 2:1–2); (3) next we must scold, reprimand, and silence them (see Titus 1:9–13); (4) we're also to avoid having fellowship with them, their deeds and pursuits, then uncover, reveal, and expose them and their deceitful practices (Ephesians 5:11); (5) finally, we must never associate with them, avoiding them entirely (2 Thessalonians 3:6).
Deceivers and Antichrists Deny the Real Jesus (2 John, v. 7)
As love and truth go hand in hand (vv. 3–4), John apparently felt it necessary to warn the church body against the many teachers of untruth. After emphasizing in v. 6 the positive perspective of what love is, he presents the negative element: We must never bestow our love on those who reject the truth! He warns believers that heretics who deny Christ Jesus' incarnation have infiltrated the churches. He highlights and describes these secessionist opponents as deceivers and antichrists, those who delude souls and undermine the glory and kingdom of the Lord. He also reminds us of the Lord's commands that we not be mislead and defrauded by deceptive false prophets but to keep away from them.
I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist (Second John, v. 7).
In his first letter, John warned against these deceivers and antichrists (1 John 2:18–23; 4:1–6). These heretics were Gnostics; their problem was that they didn't believe that God could have come to earth in flesh and blood. Gnosticism developed in two perspectives: Some Gnostics felt that while the spirit mattered, the flesh didn't; they felt permitted to live in the flesh, following their own rules, since flesh had no importance. Other Gnostics concentrated on spiritual world values and practices while also tending to be tasteful and agreeable to conforming to fleshly endeavors.
John knew well that the false teachers in his day were a danger to the church; they were traveling missionaries and teachers. Customarily, those who traveled from house to house received hospitality by Christians in every house church they visited. The visiting deceivers presented a danger because they thought and professed that it would be impossible for Jesus, albeit God, to have a genuine, personal relationship with the material world. They opined that Jesus provided only a superficial bond with people. To counter their professed belief, John proclaimed to his house church members that they must boldly declare that Jesus Christ had definitely come in the flesh. According to Pastor David Guzik, "This means Jesus came as a real man in His first coming. But it also means He will come as a human being — although glorified in humanity, which adds to His eternal deity — a real flesh-and-blood Jesus will again come to earth."
In First John, we learned that an antichrist was one who not only denied Christ but would also replace Jesus with something/someone else. Pastor David Guzik also adds this about them: "They are those who not only oppose Jesus, but also offer a 'substitute' Christ."
To better appreciate the relevance of John's usage of "deceivers," we have this from Dr. Bob Utley (Bible teacher and retired professor of hermeneutics): "The Greek word for deceiver is planos. This comes from the Greek planē, and this is where we get our term 'planet.' The ancient world paid a lot of attention to the heavenly bodies and their movements, noting that some of the stars moved irregularly. Later these stars came to be known as planets. So the word developed metaphorically to describe those who wandered from the truth."
We realized in our previous week's summary that the truth that John speaks of isn't simply something that one verbally professes; it's something that's lived out. It's also critical to realize that this Christian truth comes from above; it's the truth in and about Christ Jesus. We're commanded to walk in Christian truth and live according to it, not just admire it. Only then will we be able to effectively and continually "love one another." Great joy will be found in children of God who obediently follow his commands and walk in Christian truth.
But deceivers often strive to blur our vision of the truth about Jesus, attempting to eventually blind us. Many false teachers, then and now, deny Christ Jesus as having been born or come in the flesh. The Greek word for "come" or "coming" is erchomenon, which is a present participle and, according to this commentary, ". . . what the present tense emphasizes is the timeless character of the event (cf. John 3:31; 6:14; 11:27). It is not simply an event in history but a continuously 'abiding truth.'" Jesus is the Coming One.
Loving our neighbors has been an important part of life in Christ (v. 5). That's what John emphasized in this second letter to his congregation; he asked them to love one another in obedience to God (vv. 5–6). "Love" is one of John's fave topics throughout his letters. He says that practicing real love is one way to know that we "belong to the truth" and that we're living in God's presence (1 John 3:18–19).
Referring herein to a new command that the readers had had from the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the new command (see John 13:34, discussed above) is that believers must love one another. Just as we've seen in our study of First John, in the midst of an ongoing conflict with secessionist opponents, John felt the dire need to remind and exhort genuine Christians to love fellow believers by faithfully obeying Jesus' command to "love one another." He saw this need as an urgent matter.
Remembering and paying attention to what the Spirit of Jesus might be showing us as we live our lives and walk our Christian walk, we become enabled through the power of the indwelt Spirit's assistance to know with certainty that we're effectively "walking in love."
Dear Lord God: Please show and encourage me to "love," not merely with my words but with my actions. Show and teach me how to devotedly obey your command to genuinely love one another. Help me realize how and to whom I can actively show my love. I thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
- Q. 1 How would you grade yourself at walking in obedience to the Lord's commands? How can you improve your grade?
- Q. 2 In what way(s) can you show your love of another?
2 John, vv. 5–7